Get Creative With Compensation

When paying employees, consider incentives other than cash

creativecompensationWhen Stephany Deberry opened her first Simply Salads and Smoothies restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia, limited funds left her with a dilemma. “You have all these dreams, but then you realize it’s very difficult to grow a business when you’re the only employee,” says DeBerry, who launched the company in February 2005. The ability to offer competitive salaries was out of her reach, so she got creative.

“I was talking to a college student, and they let me know that one of the local schools had a culinary program,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I need — someone who understands food presentation, food preparation, and food preservation.’”

But perhaps more importantly, the proposed solution offered someone who would be willing to work for less. DeBerry persuaded instructors to give students credit for working at Simply Salads, eliminating her need to pay the staff. She also added other employee incentives, such as free meals and discounts for friends and family. The plan worked so well that DeBerry is replicating it in Miami where she is opening her second restaurant later this year. In 2007, Simply Salads had sales of $52,000, so the 36-year-old entrepreneur anticipates increasing success.

As DeBerry discovered, one of the challenges small business owners face is hiring top talent with limited resources. However, by developing a strategy beforehand, there are ways to entice good workers to come on board:

Be flexible. Money is not the top priority for everyone. Some employees would rather have fewer or different hours and a better work-life balance. By being less rigid about scheduling and things such as the dress code, vacation time, telecommuting, among others, you may be able to get someone on board for less than the going rate.

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